ACTION ALERT: ICE Raids Indian Restaurant in DC

UPDATE, July 10th

Earlier this week, we put out a call for volunteers to assist with an outreach effort to provide food and restaurant workers from the South Asian community with “know your rights” resources. The alert was prompted by community reports about an immigration enforcement action targeting workers in the restaurant industry over the past week in DC. Out of respect for those directly affected, we are not providing any additional information at this time. We will continue our work to protect and defend our communities, especially at a time when immigrants are being targeted, whether at workplaces and homes or at the border.

July 8, 2019

An Indian restaurant in DC was raided by ICE last week. Several Hindi speaking employees were taken to the Montgomery County jail in Maryland. 

Given the prospect of immigration raids in the DC area, we are calling for volunteers to join us for an outreach effort on July 13th and 14th.

SAALT is seeking volunteers to help with outreach, translation, and legal counsel. Click here for immediate steps you can take.

 

 

 

SAALT Welcomes Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

June 27, 2019 

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  SAALT welcomes Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-IL)  introduction of the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act.  Representatives Donald Beyer (D-VA) and Pete Olson (R-TX) introduced the companion bill in the House. The bill – which promotes more accurate hate crimes data collection and would provide support for hate crime victims and their families – marks a major step in hate crimes legislation. 

Khalid Jabara was killed on his doorstep in Tulsa, Oklahoma on August 12, 2016. One year later, on the same day, Heather Heyer was killed during a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Both deaths were prosecuted as hate crimes, yet neither were reported in official FBI hate crimes statistics. Both killings were motivated by white supremacy.  

A coalition of community and civil rights organizations have been working closely with Khalid and Heather’s families to ensure that families do not have to endure the same pain they have endured.  The first step to achieving this is understanding the systemic underpinnings of hate violence and instituting more effective ways to mandate hate crime data collection. Every level of government must be held accountable for addressing the spike in hate violence aimed at our communities. The Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act can play an instrumental role in laying this groundwork,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).  

SAALT has documented over 484 incidents of hate violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities around the country since  November 2015.  Read the latest hate report here

CONTACT: sophia@saalt.org

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Supreme Court Rules Against Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

June 27, 2019 

Washington, D.C. : The Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 today against the addition of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census, upholding a lower court’s decision. Chief Justice Roberts asked the Commerce Department for further explanation of the justification for the question, saying the Trump Administration’s reasons for it were “contrived.” Today’s ruling will effectively block the question from being added for now, and given the short time frame before census forms must be printed, the Commerce Department must no longer waste time justifying this dangerous question.

“This is a victory, but it should never have come this far. The looming threat of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census has already posed a chilling effect among immigrant and communities of color who are increasingly being deported, denaturalized, and disenfranchised by this administration. Thankfully, in this instance, the Trump Administration’s tactics have been exposed and rejected. The Commerce Department must respect the Supreme Court’s decision and allow the Census Bureau to spend their limited time and resources preparing for a 2020 Census without the citizenship question. We will work to ensure our communities’ power is recognized by ensuring that every person regardless of their status is counted and no one is left behind in the 2020 Census,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT.

SAALT’s latest South Asian demographic snapshotfound that the South Asian population in the U.S. grew a staggering 40% in seven years, from 3.5 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2017.

The purpose of the Census is simple: to literally count each person living in the U.S. That count determines more than $800 billion in federal funding to states for education, infrastructure, hospitals, parks, public benefits, and so much more. A full count ensures that our rapidly growing and changing communities are represented and receive our fair share of public programs like Medicaid, school lunches, and programs for seniors.

Census Resource: https://www.countusin2020.org/resources

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SAALT Marks One Year Anniversary of Supreme Court Ruling Upholding the Muslim Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2019

Washington, D.C.: On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of upholding the Muslim Ban, making it both legal and indefinite. Since the inception of the Muslim Ban, countless families have been separated, individuals have been denied critical medical treatment, family members have been unable to attend weddings, funerals, births; and many more have had no choice but to turn down opportunities of the so-called American dream. 

There is no humanity in the Muslim Ban, despite the Trump Administration’s assertion that waivers are granted in cases of undue hardship. The waiver process itself is a sham.  Only 5.1 percent of waivers requested are granted. The process to obtain a waiver and the way in which waiver requests are evaluated, is extremely opaque, even after numerous FOIA requests on the paltry numbers of waivers that have been granted. 

The Muslim Ban is hurting familes both in the U.S. and abroad. It is a fundamental part of our nation’s violent environment where families are routinely separated at the U.S. Mexico border and white supremacist hate violence thrives. Just this month, the body of six-year old Gurupreet Kaur was found in the Arizona desert, one mile from the nearest port of entry, where she and her mother were part of a group of migrants seeking asylum. As SAALT documented in its Communities on Fire report, 1 out of every 5 perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump Administration policy or a Trump campaign slogan while committing the act of violence. Since November 2016, SAALT has documented over 484 incidents of hate violence and over 252 incidents of xenophobic rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab communites around the country. 

It’s increasingly clear that our communities cannot rely on the Executive or Judicial branches of our federal government to protect our rights. But, Congress has the power to terminate this racist and violent policy and has recently introduced legislation that would curtail executive authority for this and future bans.

Call your Member of Congress today (House: 202-225-3121, Senate: 202-224-3121)  and urge them to cosponsor the NO BAN Act (HR 2214/S1123), which will end this cruel policy and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to ensure that no community can ever be targeted for their religion without accountability.

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

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SAALT DENOUNCES ICE RAIDS AND FAMILY SEPARATION

For Immediate Release
Friday, June 21, 2019

Media Contacts
Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org
Lakshmi Sridaran, lakshmi@saalt.org

Following the Trump administration’s announcement this week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are expected to impact families across the U.S. beginning this  Sunday, June 23rd in the pre-dawn hours. Cities expected to have the highest level of impact include: Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Newark, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Around 2,000 families are being targeted, primarily those with final orders for deportation or those who missed a hearing, with “collateral arrests” of others who might be in the vicinity.

Targeting children, youth and families in an effort to further criminalize immigrant communities is misguided and immoral. This is a blatant assault on families that will destabilize communities and harm children. Research by the Center for Law and Social Policy found evidence of behavioral changes in children who had been separated from a parent or had come in contact with immigration agents. It showed that children who have been separated from their parents frequently exhibit  signs of trauma, including anxiety, depression, frequent crying, disrupted eating and sleeping, and difficulties in school.

The ICE raids announcement comes on the heels of new reports of deaths and overcrowding in detention facilities, denial of beds and sanitation for detained children, and continued unwillingness by  ICE to reunify families.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) said, “The announcement of these raids further underscores the need for sanctuary policies across all cities to protect our communities. SAALT is working with our partners to quickly disseminate know your rights materials in multiple South Asian languages to prepare communities if ICE comes to their door. We are also encouraging members of the South Asian legal community to offer their expertise and aid for individuals impacted by these raids and for those currently detained.”

It is increasingly clear that Congress must cut funding from both Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and ICE, and immediately redirect funding to reunifying families and closing detention facilities across the U.S.

The death of 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 17, 2019

We are devastated to learn of the death of 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur.

Gurupreet’s body was found by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a remote desert outside the Lukeville, Arizona point of entry on Wednesday, June 12th, just days before her seventh birthday.

She died of heat stroke in the Arizona desert where temperatures were 108 degrees Fahrenheit, according to U.S. Border Patrol and the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner (PCOME).

Gurupreet and her mother were reportedly among a group of five Indian nationals who were dropped off by migrant traffickers in a remote area on the U.S.-Mexico border. Her mother and another woman went in search of water, leaving Gurupreet with two others from the group. Gurupreet’s mother was found by a U.S. Border Patrol agent 22 hours later. Four hours after that, Border Patrol agents found Gurupreet’s body.

Seven migrant children have died in immigration custody since last year. Hundreds more have died close to ports of entry while attempting to make the perilous journey through the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border.

SAALT is sending a letter of inquiry to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, Kevin K. McAleenan this week, demanding an investigation into Gurupreet’s death and information about her mother and the other migrants in their group.  

As U.S. Customs and Border Protection has escalated border enforcement and aggressively turned away migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry, deaths have continued to mount. Migrants are forced right back into the dangerous conditions that CBP and other federal agencies often blame on migrant traffickers and smugglers.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “U.S. border militarization, forced migration, and rejection of migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry have created an environment where a child like Gurupreet, can die in the desert, alone. Until this system is completely defunded and a new one is created that upholds the dignity of all migrants – we will continue to see unspeakable tragedies, not withstanding the countless deaths that go undocumented. While ICE and CBP have experienced unprecedented surges in their budgets, their treatment of migrants has plunged to new lows.

SAALT has been tracking both the rise in the number of South Asians crossing the border over the last 5 years and their treatment in detention facilities. Between October 2014 and April 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested over 17,000 South Asians.

Of the South Asians who end up in detention facilities, SAALT has tracked a pattern of abuse including inadequate language access, lack of religious accommodations, medical neglect, use of solitary confinement, and unacceptably high bond amounts.  

We urge our communities to stay engaged and active on this urgent issue.  

Stay updated and active by following our updates and action alerts on Twitter (SAALTweets) and Facebook (facebook.com/talktosaalt).

You can also support by donating to these organizations that provide immediate assistance:

  • The Fronterizo Fianza Fund is a community bond (fianza) fund based in El Paso and serving Far West Texas and New Mexico. Many detained migrants have no chance to be released while they wait the months or years until their trial. When someone does receive a bond, they are often way out of reach for most families, ranging anywhere from $1,500-50,000.
  • The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project is the only organization in Arizona that provides free legal and social services to detained men, women, and children under threat of deportation.
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas.
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House Passes Historic Dream and Promise Act

We’re taking a moment today to pause and celebrate what just happened.

After years of immigrant justice organizing by a broad coalition of community members, allies and partners, elected officials have listened.

The House voted last night to pass the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which offers permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for over two million people. The bill passed the House yesterday with no additional anti-immigrant amendments.

H.R. 6 will have a direct impact on the lives of people who came to the U.S. as children – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. It will make a difference in the lives of people who came to the U.S. because their countries were ravaged by war, disaster, or U.S. intervention – those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

In our communities alone, there are over 15,000 Nepalis with TPS and 4,500 South Asians with DACA status.

H.R. 6  will give them the ability to plan a future for themselves.

The road ahead isn’t easy. We are disturbed that this victory in the House included long debates across both parties on the use of deeply flawed gang databases and unjust criminal convictions to deny protections to some immigrants. Ultimately, the tireless political education of Members on the part of advocates ensured that the bill passed the House with no harmful additions. But, our work ahead will be to stop Congress from funding this administration’s deportation machine.

Before H.R. 6 becomes law, the Senate must vote to pass H.R. 6 and President Trump must sign it into law. We commit to ramping up the pressure on our elected officials.  

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “ The Dream and Promise Act passed the House without additional anti-immigrant concessions.  This is the first step in bringing an end to this administration’s racist and xenophobic policies and laying a foundation for immigrant justice in federal policy. When we refuse to compromise our values, we keep the bar higher and set the standard for change. This must be the new path forward for additional legislation and measures to defund deportation and restore protections for all immigrant and communities of color.”

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

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ACTION ALERT: URGE CONGRESS TO PASS THE DREAM AND PROMISE ACT WITH NO HARMFUL ANTI-IMMIGRANT AMENDMENTS

June 3, 2019

Last month’s passage of the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) by the House Judiciary Committee is a historic milestone in the fight for immigrant rights. It is scheduled for a full floor vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow, June 4th.

The Dream and Promise Act offers a pathway to citizenship for thousands of our community members who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.

As this historic legislation goes to the House, we need YOU to urge lawmakers to both support this legislation, which would provide permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for over two million immigrants, and reject any anti-immigrant amendments or changes to the bill.

Please take a moment to call your Member of Congress and urge them to pass the Dream and Promise Act with NO harmful anti-immigrant amendments.

There are over 15,000 Nepalis with TPS whose protection from deportation will expire on June 24, 2019. NCSO member organization, Adhikaar has been leading the fight to ensure that the thousands of Nepalis on TPS would be able to remain here in the U.S. with their families, rather than being deported at the end of this month.

Over 4,500 South Asians in the U.S. are active DACA recipients (2,550 Indian recipients, 1,300 Pakistani recipients, 470 Bangladeshi recipients, and 120 Sri Lankan recipients). The Dream and Promise Act would give them a permanent path to citizenship and access to in-state tuition and federal financial aid.

It is critical that lawmakers vote against any anti-immigrant changes to the bill, regardless of their substance, including any additional funding for ICE and CBP as well as any further discretionary power to USCIS or DHS that would increase deportations and detention. Any anti-immigrant amendments will serve only to delay the passage of this vital legislation.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “The Dream and Promise Act will give over two million immigrants a fundamental right – the right to build a life and plan for a future in this country. We urge all Members of Congress to act boldly and pass this legislation with no anti-immigrant amendments. It’s time for Congress to chip away at this administration’s racist policies and voting for H.R. 6 without delay is a step in the right direction. It is our hope that this legislation will the be the first of many and lay a strong foundation for immigrant justice. ”

South Asians by the Numbers: Population in the U.S. has grown by 40% since 2010

May 15, 2019

SAALT released its latest South Asian demographic snapshot today, revealing a community in the U.S. that’s growing almost as fast as it is changing.

By 2065, Asian Americans are on track to be the largest immigrant population in the U.S. The South Asian population in the U.S. grew a staggering 40% in seven years, from 3.5 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2017.

Key demographic facts:

  • The Nepali community grew by 206.6% since 2010, followed by Indian (38%), Bhutanese (38%), Pakistani (33%), Bangladeshi (26%), and Sri Lankan populations (15%).
  • There are at least 630,000 Indians who are undocumented, a 72% increase since 2010.
  • There are currently at least 4,300 active South Asian DACA recipients.
  • Income inequality has been reported to be the greatest among Asian Americans. Nearly 10% of the approximately five million South Asians in the U.S. live in poverty.
  • There has been a rise in the number of South Asians seeking asylum in the U.S. over the last 10 years. ICE has detained 3,013 South Asians since 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested 17,119 South Asians between October 2014 and April 2018 through border and interior enforcement.

The South Asian community in the United States includes individuals who trace their ancestry to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The community also includes members of the South Asian diaspora – past generations of South Asians who originally settled in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Canada and the Middle East, and other parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. South Asian Americans include citizens, legal permanent residents, students, H-1B and H-4 visa holders, DACA recipients, and undocumented immigrants.

SAALT’s Interim Co-Executive Director Lakshmi Sridaran said, “As we witness this unprecedented growth in our communities, it is more important than ever that the needs of the most vulnerable South Asian populations are met. South Asians are impacted by the full spectrum of federal immigration policies – from detention and deportation to H-4 visa work authorization and denaturalization to the assault on public benefits. An accurate Census 2020 population count is essential to distributing critical federal funding to our communities. A citizenship question on the census would chill thousands of community members, resulting in a severe undercount, with at least 600,000 South Asians in the country not being counted and thousands more deterred. And, this means even fewer resources to the communities who need it the most.”

SAALT’s demographic snapshot is based primarily on Census 2010 and the 2017 American Community Survey. We encourage community leaders, government entities, policymakers, and journalists  to use this data to better understand South Asian Americans and help inform their engagement with this community.

Contact: Sophia@saalt.org

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Coalition Letter to House Homeland Security Committee: Concerns about Domestic Terrorism Hearing

May 8, 2019

Dear Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member Rogers:

As civil liberties and community-based organizations, we submit this statement for the record in response to the hearing on domestic terrorism in order to share our concerns about the rise of white supremacist and nationalist violence in the country, and to remind the committee that communities of color continue to have their freedom of speech and right to assembly curtailed under the guise of fighting domestic terrorism. Before adopting any policies to fight white supremacist and nationalist violence, we urge you to consider how these policies will impact communities of color.

The term “domestic terrorism” itself has been heavily politicized and critiqued. The politicization of this term has meant that rather than applying a uniform definition, it has instead been applied differentially and used in particular to target and criminalize communities of color and their freedom of speech, movement, and assembly.   More specifically, there has been and continues to be, a systematic bias in the way terrorism is framed such that it is more readily applied to cases where the alleged perpetrator or planner of a violent act is Muslim.

Furthermore, the term “domestic terrorism” has often been associated, particularly by law enforcement, with Black and/or, Muslim and/or, Indigenous communities and their allies despite documented incidents of violence perpetrated largely by white supremacists and right-wing extremists.We are therefore concerned that the remedies and interventions that come out of this hearing will be used to increase targeting of marginalized communities.

A recent report published by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) documents hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities from Election Day 2016 to Election Day 2017. The report draws a direct line between the Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim agenda and increasing attacks, revealing that of the 213 incidents of hate violence documented, one in five perpetrators invoked President Trump’s name, his administration policies, or his campaign slogans during attacks.[1]As the SAALT report made clear, state rhetoric, policy, and violence are key to understanding the rise of white nationalist and white supremacist violence. We urge the committee to use this hearing, and subsequent hearings, to examine how government policies and institutions and political rhetoric have fostered the rise of white nationalist and white supremacist terror.

We also urge committee members to reject Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs as a remedy to the rise in white supremacist violence. Though often neutral on their face, CVE programs have in practice and since their inception under the Obama administration profiled, surveilled, and divided Muslim communities. To simply include white supremacist groups within CVE would not alter the foundation of the program, but would strengthen and expand it – and this would likely result in Muslim youth and communities getting targeted even more than before.

Moreover, CVE programs are not only problematic because of their almost exclusive focus on Muslims, but because they are based on debunked, pseudo-scientific theories that certain “radical” ideas lead to violence.[2]As civil rights and civil liberties advocates have long argued, expanding CVE to include white supremacy will be ineffective in fighting terrorism, and harmful to communities of color.[3]CVE programs promote a narrative of collective responsibility of Muslim and other marginalized communities, putting them at risk in a way that will not be felt by the majority White population.[4]

We caution that white supremacist and right wing violence are less likely to be prosecuted as terrorism,[5]and urge the committee to take steps to ensure that any reported data by relevant government agencies is reliable. Required reporting would also track the number of FBI assessments and investigations, of each domestic terrorist movement defined by the FBI. This data could be revelatory, and should be made public.

Furthermore, if the Department of Homeland Security and FBI have the discretion to define and give their opinion about each terrorist movement and conduct a threat assessment – discretion that would almost certainly be biased if either of these agencies’ histories are any indication. Therefore, we are concerned that any efforts to “research” threats will lead to increased monitoring, surveillance, and destabilization of communities of color and non-violent activist groups.

Additionally, we are worried that action to address domestic terrorism could further embolden the FBI’s surveillance of the Muslim community. To date, the FBI maintains a nationwide network of over 15,000 informants[6], many of them highly paid to infiltrate Muslim communities. According to Human Rights Watch, from 2001 – 2014, “nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.”[7]It is unclear how these injustices will be addressed moving forward and what the recommendation will be regarding the use of informants to uncover or manufacture domestic terrorism plots. Thus, we urge Members of Congress to be explicit about the role of informants and what safeguards will be put in place to make sure they are not violating the rights of already marginalized communities. Data on the number of FBI informants involved in domestic terror related assessments and investigations should be collected and made public.

We look forward to working with the committee to ensure that white supremacist terror is addressed without adversely impacting the very communities most often targeted by white supremacists. We do not believe that law enforcement or intelligence agencies need additional authorities to address domestic terrorism, but they must be held accountable for ignoring some threats and inflating others.

 

Signed,

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Justice for Muslims Collective

Defending Rights & Dissent

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Asian American Resource Workshop – Boston

Campaign to TAKE ON HATE

Center for Constitutional Rights

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

MPower Change

National Network for Arab American Communities

Project South

Property of the People

Revolutionary Love Project

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P).

 

[1]Communities on Fire, South Asian Americans Advancing Together, January 2018

[2]See Letter from Nicole Nguyen & Stacey Krueger, Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, to Members of Congress et al, Concerning the Questionable Use of Academic Research to Support CVE Initiatives (October 5, 2016)
and Who Will Become a Terrorist? Research Yields Few Clues (Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, Mar. 27, 2016)

[3]See Letter from 53 Civil Rights and Liberties Organizations Against Expanding CVE Programs(September 7, 2017)

andStatement:​ ​AMEMSA​ ​Groups​ ​Oppose​ ​Expansion​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Countering​ ​Violent​ ​Extremism​ ​Program(September 7, 2017)

[4]Are Muslims Collectively Responsible?, 416Labs, November 19, 2015

[5]Trevor Aaronson, Terrorism’s Double Standard: Violent Far-Right Extremists Are Rarely Prosecuted as Terrorists, The Intercept, March 23, 2019

[6]Trevor Aaronson, The Informants, Mother Jones, July, 2011

[7]Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terror Prosecutions, Human Rights Watch, July 21, 2014